Atheist Group Won’t Persist in Complaint Against Music Teacher Who Played ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ During Announcements

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — A Tennessee chapter of one of the most conspicuous professing atheist groups in the nation has decided not to persist in its complaint against a music teacher at a public elementary school who played Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” during the morning announcements.

“FFRF-ETC is not going to continue to pursue this issue,” Aleta Ledendecker of the East Tennessee chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently wrote to the Oak Ridger, stating that the group believes that there are “more egregious” Church-State separation issues to address.

She noted that the school district was not going to capitulate to her request that the song not be used again.

“FFRF prefers to resolve issues through simple requests, and in this case the school system was not amenable to making changes,” Ledendecker outlined. “This issue would probably be difficult to litigate. Even though there were two families who complained to FFRF-ETC about this music selection, not all complainants wish to go as far as litigation.”

As previously reported, Ledendecker emailed Linden Elementary School Principal Roger Ward last September to assert that airing a clip of the “Hallelujah Chorus” over the loudspeaker could be considered religious proselytization.

“While this music may be beautiful and even inspirational for Christians, it is not acceptable for broadcasting to the entire student body at Linden Elementary,” she wrote. “In consideration of all the possible choices of music, this piece with its distinctly religious content can be interpreted as proselytizing. Such actions are clearly prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Ledendecker asked Ward to ensure that no religious-themed music be aired in the future.

“Please see that the music director makes appropriate choices for broadcasting to your student body beginning immediately,” she continued. “Furthermore, please reply with a report of the actions you have taken to assure that there will be no future music choices with even a hint of religious overtones.”

However, the school replied by advising that the teacher only used the song because the class was studying George Frederic Handel that week, and only 20-30 seconds of the composition was aired. A different composer is studied each week.

“The passage was selected to correspond with the school’s overall music curriculum that, for that particular week, featured the musical works of George Handel,” an unidentified school district representative told conservative commentator Todd Starnes.

“The criticisms articulated by Ms. Ledendecker appear to have been based upon insufficient information taken entirely out of context, incorrect assumptions about the school’s music curriculum and a fundamental misunderstanding of the First Amendment’s relationship with historically sacred classical music compositions being taught in a public school music curriculum,” they said.


As previously reported, while some state that God and government must remain separated, others note that the nation was founded by those who believed that America could not expect to be blessed if it failed to acknowledge and honor Almighty God.

On March 23, 1798—less than 12 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution—John Adams, the second president of the United States called for a day of national repentance, prayer and fasting.

“[T]he safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness cannot exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed,” he wrote.

James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, similarly called for a national day of prayer on July 9, 1812.

“I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the universe and the Benefactor of mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness and His assistance in the great duties of repentance…”

Push at state level for Bible elective in schools

Student Bible on desk

Many public school students in Iowa will have the opportunity of studying the Bible in class if a bill introduced in this legislative session passes.

Representative Dean Fisher of Montour, sponsor of HF 2031, says the bill would allow schools to offer elective Bible classes for grades 9-12; but it would not mandate they do so. The purpose of the course, as stated in the bill:

“… must be to provide students with knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, and to familiarize students with the contents, history, literary style and structure, and influence of the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament of the Bible.”

The Republican lawmaker believes understanding the Bible from a historical perspective helps students understand America’s foundation.

“It’s undeniable that the Bible has had a huge impact on American history and, really, world history as well,” he says. “And you really can’t fully understand American history and American culture if you don’t have some understanding of the Bible.”

A number of people have opposed Fisher’s bill, but he contends most have done so without reading and understanding the bill.

“Some people have an allergic, kneejerk-type of reaction to any mention of the Bible,” he tells OneNewsNow. “They didn’t understand that this is an elective course; they didn’t understand that it’s being taught purely from the aspect as literature.”

Fisher also points out that under the legislation, schools wouldn’t be permitted to endorse Christianity over other religions or to speak against other religions.

After Baptism Gone Wrong, Court Weakens Church Protections

After Baptism Gone Wrong, Court Weakens Church Protections

When churches face lawsuits, does their religious liberty hinge on whether or not their accuser is an official member? Experts are concerned that, in an unusual baptism gone wrong, a state supreme court has decided yes.

Nearly a year ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided 5–3 that a Muslim convert to Christianity—whose baptism nearly got him killed—couldn’t sue First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa for inadvertently alerting his would-be murderers with its online announcement of the baptism.

Ten months later—in December 2017—the justices changed their minds, issuing a 5–4 decision that the man could, in fact, have his day in court.

This month, First Presbyterian asked the Sooner State’s top court to take a third look at the case, arguing that the justices mixed up two separate issues of law: the ecclesiastical extension/church autonomy doctrine and the ministerial exception.

The trouble started more than six years ago, when a Syrian Muslim man converted to Christianity and asked if he could be baptized by First Presbyterian. The man—who is called John Doe in court documents to protect his identity—says he asked the church to keep quiet about it, since shari‘ah law demands that converts from Islam be executed.

Later that day, the man flew to Syria to marry his fiancée. A few weeks later, while still there, he was kidnapped and threatened by Islamist extremists, including his uncle and cousin.

His abductors had discovered his conversion through First Presbyterian’s online weekly bulletin, which announced his baptism, according to his lawsuit. After three days of torture, the man escaped after killing his uncle during a struggle for a gun.

It took several months for the man and his wife to make their way back to the United States, he told the Tulsa World. After returning, he went through more than a dozen surgeries to repair his body from the torture.

He sued First Presbyterian for $75,000, accusing it of breach of contract, negligence, and outrage. The church asked for the case to be dismissed, reasoning that secular courts don’t have jurisdiction over ecclesiastical matters like theology and customs.

The district court agreed, dismissing the case “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” When the man appealed to the state supreme court, it said the same thing. The case was dismissed in February 2017.

Then, last month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down another ruling.

“No facts changed,” First Presbyterian’s attorney, John Tucker, told CT. And in the ruling itself, no reason was given for the rehearing, which can be requested by a losing party after any decision.

But one of the justices that sat out the first decision weighed in (on Doe’s side) the second time around, Tucker said. And one of the justices that agreed with the church in February changed his mind by December.

“The foundational inquiry is to discern exactly what Doe asked appellees to do with respect to baptism, what appellees agreed to perform for Doe, and ultimately the nature and extent of Doe’s consent surrounding baptism,” the justices stated, noting multiple times that Doe did not become a member of First Presbyterian.

“[E]cclesiastical protection for a church arises solely from membership and the consent by the person to be governed by the church,” their opinion continued [emphasis theirs]. They referenced the US Supreme Court’s Hosanna-Tabor decision, in which all nine justices agreed that the government couldn’t interfere if a religious organization wanted to fire a minister.

“[T]he ministerial exception or the church autonomy doctrine, grounded in the religion clause of the First Amendment, ‘operates as an affirmative defense to an otherwise cognizable claim, not a jurisdictional bar,’” the Oklahoma Supreme Court justices decided [emphasis theirs].

In other words, a religious organization can use the ministerial exception or church autonomy doctrine to defend itself during a case, but not use it to escape from trial altogether.

But that’s where the court got it wrong, Tucker argued in his petition for rehearing.

Yes, the ministerial exception can be used to defend oneself at trial. But the church autonomy doctrine is something altogether different. It “establishes a constitutional denial of jurisdiction,” which means that a secular court has no right to even try the case in the first place.

“This case cannot be finally decided without delving into Christian beliefs about baptism, generally, and Presbyterian beliefs, specifically,” Tucker wrote. “[I]t will be necessary to judge how the Presbyterian faith views publication, both under church governance and historical practice.”

The court placed Doe’s intent—which was to get baptized but not to become a church member—over the “rules, customs, and tradition of the baptizing church,” Tucker wrote. He continued:

“Where then does the majority of the Court draw the protected line? Any publication beyond profession of faith in front of the congregation is now subject to control by the secular court, emasculating the protections of the First Amendment. Under the substituted opinion, courts have the right to tell churches how they can and cannot report baptisms. … No court of record in the United States has ever reached such a conclusion.”

Christiana Holcomb, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), agrees with Tucker.

“I was astonished at how narrowly [the Oklahoma Supreme Court] construed and, frankly, abused the church autonomy doctrine,” she said. “They interpreted it so narrowly that it would only apply to church members, which was never its intent. They ignored an abundance of other [US] Supreme Court precedents.”

Holcomb says ADF is monitoring the case closely.

“We’ll be weighing in as appropriate,” she said. “It’s a big deal. It would be precedential for the state of Oklahoma. It would alter my legal counsel to churches within the state of Oklahoma—it’s that egregious, and such a significant departure from established precedent.”

Religious liberty scholar and law professor Thomas Berg told CT he didn’t “have a strong feeling whether the church-autonomy exception, or the ministerial exception, should be technically jurisdictional.”

Either one may require the court to dig into a church’s documents or dealings to determine facts. The important thing is that a court does it quickly so that “the intrusion on it from the litigation process will be minimized,” he said.

He agreed that Doe’s lack of membership “does not avoid application of of the church-autonomy doctrine.”

Doe reached out to the church for the baptism, “thereby submitted himself to the church’s rules on that practice,” Berg said. “Church autonomy binds those who associate themselves with the church; you can associate yourself for limited purposes and be bound within that sphere. A parallel case, cited by the dissent, involves the non-Catholic husband who agreed to participate in the Catholic annulment process and then tried to sue his ex-wife for defamation for statements she made during it. He properly lost, because he accepted the terms of that particular process.”

Doe’s best argument might be “that the church breached a promise of confidentiality made by the member who said, in the lead-up to the baptism, ‘Nobody will find out. We will make sure that your secret is safe,’” said Berg, who emphasized that he had not studied the full court record.

“Whatever the precise facts here … the legal point is that a church can surrender its autonomy by voluntary agreement,” he said. “For example, a church doesn’t have to pay its minister an above-minimum wage, but if it signs a contract to pay a given wage, it can be sued for breach.”

Christian Students Knifed, Beaten in High School Clash in Kenya

Courtyard at Jamhuri High School in Nairobi, Kenya. (Wikimapia)

NAIROBIKenya (Morning Star News) – Muslim students at a high school in Nairobi on Tuesday night (Jan. 23) beat and stabbed Christians who refused to convert to Islam, a local source said.

Tensions had been growing for weeks at Jamhuri High School in northern Nairobi, with Muslims primarily of Somali, Boran and Oromo descent complaining of discrimination. Due to increasing hostilities, the boarding school had designated separate bathrooms and separate sections in the library for Christians and Muslims, a source told Morning Star News.

The conflict came to a head Tuesday night (Jan. 23), when Muslim students began speaking in inflammatory terms and tried to force Christian students to recite the Islamic creed for conversion and force students to participate in Muslim cleansing rituals, a source on campus who requested anonymity said.

“Some Muslim students forcefully tried to induct Christian students into their Islam faith, and those who refused were knifed, while others were physically beaten,” the source told Morning Star News by phone. “The knives and machetes used are alleged to have come from outside the school.”

At least 35 of the school’s 1,500 students were injured, including some Muslims when the Christian students tried to defend themselves, the source said. Some Christian students received hospital treatment for stab wounds and dislocated bones in their hands and joints, he said.

Police were investigating the cause of the attack at this writing. The school has been closed indefinitely.

School Principal Fred Awuor was reportedly injured in the attack and had received hospital treatment.

Pro-life Advocates Win Court Victory in Free Speech Case

Pro-life Advocates Win Court Victory in Free Speech Case

On January 29, 2018, a federal judge told participants in a lawsuit forcing pro-life sidewalk counselors to defend themselves against harassment charges, that leafletting is a “form of really protected speech,” and that sidewalks are recognized as the “quintessential public forum.” The words from the bench underscored the arguments of Thomas More Society Special Counsel Martin Cannon. Cannon is defending a group of pro-life advocates who are being charged by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in a federal lawsuit that accuses them of threats and violence against abortion clinic patients.

A group of pro-life advocates with Church @ the Rock in Brooklyn, New York, has been targeted for their ongoing sidewalk counseling, prayer and protest activities outside of a Jamaica, New York, abortion clinic. Yesterday’s hearing was a request by the Thomas More Society for the court todismiss the lawsuit against those who have been gathering outside of the Choices Women’s Medical Center abortion facility.

U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon’s questioning of Assistant Attorney General Sandra Pullman in yesterday’s United States District Court – Eastern District of New York hearing in People v. Griepp et al focused on the definition of harassment. The state’s interpretation seemed to focus on the reaction of a person to another’s actions, something that neither lined up with New York City’s city council harassment statue or according to Cannon, common sense. “The idea that harassment should be defined by someone’s reaction has no basis in any law or in any logic.”

“We expect to be vindicated,” stated Rev. Kenneth Griepp, a defendant in the lawsuit and the senior pastor at Church @ the Rock. “As a voice for the unborn, we are committed to raising awareness about the over 3,500 children that are being murdered every day here in America. We do so as peaceful people of God. Because the Thomas More Society attorneys understand that, they are able to ably defend us and protect the rights we are guaranteed under the US Constitution and First Amendment, including the freedom to speak out against what we believe to be the grave error of abortion and to offer lifesaving alternatives to women and their children.”

The judge took issue with the prosecution’s reference to what they labelled as “annoying behavior.” Amon commented that if harassment charges could be brought for being annoying, “I could sue all of you here today.”

 Canon commented on the January 29, 2018, hearing, “These harassment charges are unconstitutionally vague. The prosecution’s very loose handling of a serious charge serves to highlight the baseless claims in a case solely intended to discourage any opposition to abortion.” He added that there are no documented or verified instances of the force, threat of force, physical obstruction, following and harassing, which Schneiderman claims has occurred.

Schneiderman claimed his lawsuit, filed in June 2017, was intended to end to what he charged is “a weekly pattern of threatening, obstructive and violent activity by a network of anti-abortion protestors.” He claimed to have received “complaints of the protesters’ extremely aggressive behavior.” He called the church members’ efforts to counsel women considering abortion and to advocate for the rights of the unborn, “horrifying” and “illegal.”

Schneiderman’s support of the abortion industry is well publicized. In April 2017, he openly opposed any defunding of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, proclaiming, “I was proud to lead a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief against the Ohio state law that would defund Planned Parenthood.”

“These pro-life advocates are life-affirming Christians who peacefully counsel women considering abortion. They conduct themselves reasonably and compassionately and offer information about alternatives to those willing to listen,” stated Cannon. The Thomas More Society is representing ten members of Church @ the Rock in Brooklyn, who are among the fourteen defendants named in the suit. The congregation has been witnessing for life outside of the abortion facility, weekly, since 2012.

The next major court hearing in this case will take place the week of February 12, 2018.

Read background on the Thomas More Society involvement with People v. Griepp et al here [].

About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit

Man Accused of Assault Claims to Be a Boy Trapped in an Adult’s Body

Man Accused of Assault Claims to Be a Boy Trapped in an Adult’s Body

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities).

The stock market has added $6.9 trillion to US wealth since the 2016 election. According to the New York Times, “Every major economy on earth is expanding at once, a synchronous wave of growth that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.”

But while the economy is booming and prosperity is rising, another expansion is changing lives as well.

“The Gay Rights Movement Is Undoing Its Best Work”

Joseph Roman, age thirty-eight, has been charged with predatory criminal sexual assault. Prosecutors say he repeatedly attacked three girls who were six to eight years old at the time. During a hearing last week, prosecutors said Roman admitted to some of the attacks and told Chicago police “he is a 9-year-old trapped in an adult’s body.”

As our culture continues down the “truth is what you believe it to be” road, we can expect more people to claim the right to define themselves by whatever age, gender, or race they choose.

Practitioners of polyamory (“many loves” or non-monogamous relationships) are attempting to normalize their lifestyle in our culture. One writer now claims that “we need to question the limits we have placed on what counts as a ‘romantic’ relationship” (her emphasis). She is calling for the “freedom to love” as many people as we choose.

Andrew Sullivan is an openly gay conservative political commentator. He recently wrote a column for New York magazine titled, “The Gay Rights Movement Is Undoing Its Best Work.”

Sullivan celebrates the movement that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, he warns that “the movement is now rhetorically as much about race and gender as it is about sexual orientation.”

In addition, it “prefers alternatives to marriage to marriage equality, sees white men as ‘problematic,’ masculinity as toxic, gender as fluid, and race as fundamental.” In his view, “live and let live” became “if you don’t believe gender is nonbinary, you’re a bigot.”

And a new study profiled in Time shows that married people who start watching pornography are twice as likely to be divorced in the following years than those who don’t. Women who start watching porn are three times more likely to get divorced.

“A massive upheaval designed to make man anew”

Steve Soukup is Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum. In a recent column, he addressed the background of the sexual revolution transforming our culture.

He noted that, for centuries, our behavior was “constrained by fear of God, fear of societal rebuke or shame, and fear of the law.” This worldview began to crumble with the Enlightenment. The French Revolution sought to replace religion with reason, but the laws it constructed and enforced led to the execution of forty thousand people.

Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Zedong each tried “to enforce ‘proper’ behavior through the force of law alone, with traditional social and moral constraints laid low.” Along the way, Lenin and Stalin murdered some thirty to forty million people; Mao nearly doubled those numbers in his “cultural revolution.”

In Soukup’s view, the sexual revolution is no different: “It too started with a massive upheaval, designed to make man anew, to change the human condition, and specifically to destroy the old ways, the old institutions, and the mores and the taboos that had existed since time immemorial.”

The moral consensus that existed prior to this “revolution” has been abolished. There are now no restraints on our behavior except those of arbitrary laws. And as we have seen, laws can be changed whenever our moral standards change.

“The victory that has overcome the world”

The catastrophic sexual revolution of recent decades generates daily headlines that can easily dishearten us. But know this: “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:4).

We see the power of God’s word at work in Mark 1: Jesus rebuked an evil spirit, and the crowd was astonished at his “new teaching with authority” (v. 27). As a result, “at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” (v. 28).

In a Roman culture even more hedonistic than ours, the word of God, spread by the people of God, advanced the kingdom of God to the glory of God. They “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) and sparked the mightiest spiritual movement the world has ever seen.

Now God has called us to be his “ambassadors for Christ.” Our message is simple: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

When we live by biblical morality, we can claim God’s promise: “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” (Psalm 119:1). And when we stand publicly for biblical morality, we can claim his promise: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Let’s pray daily for the spiritual and moral awakening our culture needs. Let’s ask God to use our influence as examples and ambassadors for that awakening. And let’s remember that “this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Helen Keller was right: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

Harassment of Messianic Jews’ Center in Israel Begins Anew

Dimona, Israel. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News) – After opposition shut down a meeting center for Messianic Jews in southern Israel last May, ultra-Orthodox Jews are harassing it again since it re-opened this month, sources said.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested the presence of the center in Dimona, Israel on Tuesday (Jan. 23) and threatened some of the Messianic Jews, followers of Jesus, according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).

“Protests have taken place the last two weeks after the reopening of the center at the beginning of January,” according to a MEC press statement.

The center, where Messianic Jews meet for conversation, coffee and tea, had been temporarily closed last year due to protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews on May 4, 2017, after which they damaged Messianic Jewish leaders’ homes, breaking windows and traumatizing two children inside one home, one of the leaders told Messianic news outlet Kehila News Israel.

“Because we bent down at the right moment, we were not hit by stones thrown at us,” Albert Knoester, elder at a Messianic congregation in Beersheba, said of last year’s attacks in an interview published by Kehila News Israel. “Apart from this damage, there was also psychological trauma to one of the families in Dimona, due to the demonstrations and also because their house was damaged by stones. But also through bullying, etc., their two young daughters were traumatized by what had happened, and they needed psychological help.”

Knoester, of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua’s Inheritance) congregation, said that not long after protestors secretly filmed the Messianic Jews at a Town Hall meeting last year, demonstrators including members of the ultra-Orthodox Yad L’Achim showed up at his and house and did more damage, including smashing windows.

Those incidents, however, led to townsfolk on the street inviting them for drinks to talk, he told Kehila News.

“Quite a number of ‘ordinary people’ are feeling ashamed of what is being done to us,” he told Kehila News. “We receive invitations from people to come over and have a coffee with them. We had at least six times an opportunity to explain to a rabbi why we believe that Jesus is the Messiah – as a result of the question to us, ‘Why do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah?’”

Local media have misrepresented the center as a “mission post,” and false reports including accusations of bribery for conversion to Christianity have also led Jews to talk with them, he told the news outlet. A group of rabbis showed up to interrogate them, he said, and when his wife Esther responded with verses from Psalm 23, they agreed to temporarily close the center while continuing to discuss what place the “Open House” should have in the community.

“One day later,” he told Kehila News, “one of the rabbis wrote in a local newspaper: ‘We went to that house in order to silence them by force, but that woman would not stop talking! She should know about that other verse of Psalm 23: about the valley of the shadow of death. Let her go through it, together with her husband.’”

In the following days local media began a slander campaign, he said. Besides the bribery accusation – that they would offer a car in exchange for converting to Christianity – they were accused of putting a powder in people’s coffee “to change Jews into Christians,” and of coercing Jews to convert by force, he told the news outlet.

“Because they are unable to charge us, and unable to find anything against us, another weapon is used instead: lies, gossip, changing facts and blackmail,” he told Kehila News. “There are pictures of us in the city center with severe warnings. Also, big posters on billboards with nasty texts have been put up. The people are warned to watch out and protect their children against us.”

Bible Society Threatened
In Tel Aviv, a Bible Society bookshop is under threat of being shut down.

The owner of the bookshop’s building alleges that the Bible Society is violating its commercial license by changing the purpose under the rental agreement from selling books to managing or advancing missionary activity and therefore should not have protected tenant status, according to MEC. The owner also accuses the Bible Society of violating the agreement by adding another partner. The Bible Society denies both accusations. Its shop has been in the same location for 55 years.

On Wednesday (Jan. 24) two representatives of the Bible Society in Israel went to court to give testimony, but the judge did not appear due to illness, and the case has been postponed to an as yet unknown date, MEC said in a statement.

“The delay is frustrating for those concerned, but the director of the Bible Society in Israel affirms that God is in control and thanks everyone for their prayers and encouragement,” the MEC statement reads. “It is believed that the owner of the premises is being influenced by others who are opposed to the presence of the Bible Society in Tel Aviv and the sale of Christian books.”

Palestinian Territories

In Bethlehem, where two nuns and their convent in the Palestinian Territories were attacked last year, a policeman appeared to be altering the facts in his testimony at a hearing on the case on Monday (Jan. 22), according to MEC.

On April 30, 2017, a woman identified as a member of the Mahatna family, which has taken over part of St. Mary’s Coptic Convent, broke into its storeroom and physically assaulted a nun identified only as Sister Maria, besides damaging the property. While the nuns were on the way to a police station to file a complaint, the alleged assailant’s brother, Rami, and a friend stopped their car and struck it with an iron bar, unaware that a police officer was inside the car, MEC reported.

“According to Sister Maria, the police officer who had been in the car failed to give a true account of what happened” in testimony this week, MEC reported. “It is believed that the Mahatna family have close links to influential members of the Palestinian Authority and that, as a result, the course of justice is being obstructed.”

A lawyer representing the nuns has asked for damages to the car to be examined by an expert and presented as evidence. The next hearing is scheduled for April 9.

The Mahatna family has illegally taken up residence in part of the convent building, according to MEC.

At a prior hearing on Monday (Jan. 22) regarding the alleged assault on Sister Maria by the Mahatna family member, identified only as Rania, a judge appeared sympathetic to medical reports on the nun’s injuries, according to MEC. A final hearing is scheduled for March 23.

“Prayer is requested that the judges will examine the cases fairly, and that justice will be seen to be promptly done; and that the Mahatna family members will stop harassing the nuns and move out of the convent premises,” MEC said in a statement.

Cuba: Christian Man is Arrested, Told ‘Our God is Fidel Castro’

Cuba: Christian Man is Arrested, Told 'Our God is Fidel Castro'

“Political police” allegedly beat a Cuban Christian man after his arrest last year for “pre-criminal social dangerousness,” according to a watchdog group’s report.

Watchdog group NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide says that Misael Diaz Paseiro was arrested on Oct. 22. State security agents confiscated two bibles, crucifixes and five rosaries from his house.

“Misael, in addition to being a counter-revolutionary, you are also a Christian,” CSW quoted a police official as telling Paseiro. “You should look at us, we are revolutionaries and we don’t believe in your God. Our god is Fidel Castro.”

Initially, Paseiro was not allowed access to his bible while in prison. He also was not allowed to have a priest visit.

In response, Paseiro’s wife, Ariana López Roque, went on a 19-day hunger strike.

 According to CSW, she ended her hunger strike after being told that her husband would have more rights while in prison.

In a report released this month by CSW, there were some 325 religious freedom violations in Cuba in 2017.

“CSW is deeply concerned by the growing number and severity of [religious freedom] violations reported by a wide variety of denominations and religious groups, which seem to show that the government is attempting to tighten its control over the activities and membership of religious groups,” the CSW report reads.

“It is essential that the European Union, the United States, and other governments in dialogue with Cuba use their positions to press for improvements to religious freedom and the general human rights situation in the country.”

Poll: 4 major denominations support abortion

church congregation (rear view)

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that most mainline Christian churches and many denominations agree that abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” with the Unitarian Universalist Church leading even atheists and agnostics in their advocacy of the lethal practice.

Even though less than 50 percent of evangelicals and Catholics believe that abortion should be legal under virtually every circumstance, nearly all majorities of mainline Christian churches support abortion, with several major denominations casting their support for the controversial procedure.

“Seventy-nine percent of Episcopalians, 65 percent of Presbyterians, 58 percent of Methodists, and 56 percent of Anglicans support legal abortion ‘in all or most cases,’” Breitbart News divulged from the Pew poll.

Teaching God’s Gospel or the social gospel?

The shocking statistics were brought to light as the 45th anniversary of the notorious United States Supreme Court case – that opened the doors for some 60 million innocent preborn babies’ lives to be terminated – is being celebrated by abortion activists nationwide.

“More than four decades after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, most Americans (57 percent) are supportive of legal abortion,” the 2017 Pew Research Center survey announced. “But a substantial minority (40 percent) says abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and within some U.S. denominations and religious groups, this figure is much higher.”

Even though the Bible clearly warns against the evils of abortion and teaches about the sanctity of human life that is only God’s to take – more and more churches across America do not share God’s Word with their congregations on the important moral issue.

“Traditionally, Christians teach that every human life is sacred and valuable from the moment of conception to natural death,” Life News reported. “Yet, it appears that some denominations – especially mainline Protestant denominations – may not be teaching this.”

Yet strong majorities in a number of U.S. denominations still believe that abortion should be illegal under virtually every situation.

“Seventy-seven percent of members of the Church of God, 71 percent of members of the Assemblies of God, and 66 percent of members of the Southern Baptist Convention would like to see abortion made illegal in all or most cases,” Breitbart’s Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D. shared from Pew’s figures.

And when it comes to political affiliations, a stark contrast between parties can be seen on the issue of abortion.

“In relation to party affiliation, nearly two-thirds of Republicans (65 percent) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, whereas three-quarters (75 percent) of Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases,” Williams added. “Among independents, 60 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Among those who describe themselves as liberal Democrats, the vast majority (91 percent) supports legal abortion while six-in-10 (61 percent) of conservative and moderate Democrats say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

Pew examined responses from each religious group in its U.S. during its 2014 Religious Landscape Study, and here is how they stacked up when American adults were asked if abortion should be legal in all or most cases:

  • Unitarian Universalist -90 percent
  • Atheist- 87 percent
  • Jewish- 87 percent
  • Buddhist- 82 percent
  • Episcopal Church- 79 percent
  • United Church of Christ- 72 percent
  • Hindu- 68 percent
  • “Nothing in particular”- 67 percent
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)- 65 percent
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America- 65 percent
  • African Methodist Episcopal Church- 64 percent
  • United Methodist Church- 58 percent
  • All U.S. adults (in 2017)- 57 percent
  • National Baptist Convention- 57 percent
  • Anglican Church- 56 percent
  • Muslim- (55 percent)
  • Presbyterian Church in America- 54 percent
  • Orthodox Church- 53 percent
  • Catholic- 48 percent
  • American Baptist Churches USA- 47 percent
  • Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod- 46 percent
  • Seventh-day Adventist- 42 percent
  • Church of God in Christ- 41 percent
  • Churches of Christ- 36 percent
  • Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)- 30 percent
  • Mormon- 27 percent
  • Church of the Nazarene- 27 percent
  • Assemblies of God- 26 percent
  • Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.)- 20 percent
  • Jehovah’s Witness- 18 percent

Setting the standard

When major denominations and societal groupings make their stance on abortion known to their congregants and members, most within those groups follow their teachings.

“Among those who do identify with a religion, the majority view about abortion among members of a particular group often mirrors that group’s official policy on abortion,” Pew’s David Masci explained. “This is the case with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) and the Southern Baptist Convention – both churches oppose abortion, as do most members of those churches. And the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Unitarian Universalist Association, and Reform and Conservative Judaism, for example, all support abortion rights – in line with most of their adherents.”

This is adherence to teachings is not always the case, however, as explained by America’s leading pollsters.

“[W]hile the Roman Catholic Church is an outspoken critic of abortion, U.S. Catholics were divided on the issue in the 2014 survey, with 48 percent supportive of legal abortion and 47 percent opposed,” Masci added from Pew’s research.

Many pro-life advocates are excited that President Donald Trump has been dubbed as the “greatest pro-life president” in American history, and his recent celebration of life to counter the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this month provides further encouragement for the pro-life movement.

“Last week, President Trump reinstated Sanctity of Human Life Day on Jan. 22, after the eight years during which the Obama administration declined to observe the commemoration, which was begun in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan,” Williams pointed out.

This year’s proclamation at the pro-life event stressed how research in the medical field is buttressing the pro-life movement’s side of the argument to protect children in the womb.

“Science continues to support and build the case for life,” the 2018 proclamation states, according to Breitbart. “Medical technologies allow us to see images of the unborn children moving their newly formed fingers and toes, yawning and even smiling. Those images present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs – precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope. [Such medical advances] give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn.”

As more scientific evidence shows that human life truly begins at conception, more Americans are changing their pro-abortion views.

“A Marist poll in January found that 76 percent of Americans want significant restrictions on abortion, with a strong majority supporting a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, when unborn babies are capable of feeling pain,” Life News’ Micaiah Bilger recounted. “More than three quarters of Americans would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, at most, according to the Marist poll. This includes a majority of Republicans, Independents, Democrats and even those who identify as ‘pro-choice’ on abortion.”

School Board Member Concerned After Homework Assignment Claims Christians, Muslims Worship Same God

ELGIN, Ill. — “Do you know what your children are being taught: Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews?” That’s the question a school board member in Illinois recently posted online after her daughter came home with an assignment that included an article claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Jeannette Ward of the U46 School Board posted the text of the assignment to her social media page to show others the kinds of messages that are being presented to students, and to outline why she voted no on the curriculum the previous year.

“Judaism, Christianity and Islam are three of the world’s major religions. While they have many differences, they all believe in the same God,” the assignment read.

 “In each religion, God is ‘revealed’ by a chosen messenger, called a prophet. Some of the prophets that Jews follow were Noah, Abraham and Moses. Christians follow these prophets too. They also think that Jesus was another prophet of the same God,” it stated. “Later, Muhammad founded Islam by declaring himself a prophet. He said he was the next in the same line of prophets. He also said that he would be the last.”

“Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same complex God. But each religion believes that its books and teachings reveal the true nature of that God,” it read. “This disagreement has shaped the course of history. The followers of each religion believe that only they will be saved by God. They see all others as damned. This way of seeing people, as damned by God and beyond saving, has led to violence and hatred. It is why these religions both unite and divide.”

The assignment also included quiz questions that featured answers such as, “Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the same God; in all three religions, prophets revealed that God is complex and that only certain people will be saved by God.”

Ward became concerned about the lesson that her daughter, who is in the sixth grade, brought home from school as she called it “utterly incorrect and false on many levels.” Her post drew much discussion, and a number of clergymen have weighed in on the matter during the December and January U46 School Board meetings, including even just this past week.

One group of religious leaders stated that while they “sympathized” with Ward’s concerns about the article, they also disagreed with Ward’s “approach” in expressing concern.

“Each of us believes our own traditions are holy and true. Each of us also believes that each person, regardless of religious tradition is valued by God and is therefore worthy of dignity and respect,” they said in a joint statement. “We believe that honoring these holy teachings of our varied traditions means engaging in respectful dialogue and using care when exercising the responsibilities and privileges granted to us as leaders.”

Ward replied that she saw nothing wrong with her approach as she simply shared the assignment and advised others about what children were being taught in the district.

On Monday, a number of other clergy members and citizens spoke in support of Ward, stating that she should be commended for bringing the matter to light.

“To say that Allah of the Quran and the God of the Bible are the same is simply absurd,” said Art Ellingsen, founder of Talk 2 a Pastor, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s not just something flying in the wind, it’s not just a political issue, it is a faith issue, and faith issues are very important to a lot of people in this community,” also said Mark Frusti of Faith Lutheran Church.

Frusti was one of 12 pastors who also submitted a letter to the board, which served as a response to the statement from the other clergy, and also a means of support for Ward.

“Without proper guidance, this type of article can do nothing but foster confusion and undermine the work of parents and faith leaders as those responsible for the spiritual health and wellbeing of our children,” they wrote. “For that reason, we strongly advocate for its removal from use within the curriculum.”

As previously reported, in 2016, then-Wheaton professor Larycia Hawkins drew concerns after she posted to social media a photo of herself wearing a hijab and claimed that she was doing so to stand in solidarity with Muslims.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins asserted. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Hawkins eventually left the college after controversy erupted, not about her hijab, but her assertion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Some used the opportunity to outline why the concept is flawed in light of Scripture.

“Muslims hold that ‘God is one.’ Allah has no partners and assigning partners to him is shirk, the highest blasphemy,” explained Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C., in a blog post for the Gospel Coalition. “Christians believe ‘God is one in three Persons.’ Each Person in the Trinity is fully and eternally God. Yet there is one God.”

He noted that as Muslims do not worship Jesus, who is God, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.

“No one knows God who does not know the Son, who is the only mediator between God and man,” Anyabwile said. “The goal of Christianity is the salvation of sinners through the righteousness, substitutionary atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”